If somebody pregame had said an ex-Bull would score 26 points in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Bucks-Brooklyn Nets game, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot probably wouldn’t have been the first bet of many.
Heck, he might have been fourth of four.
Jamal Crawford, making his Nets debut (and in doing so, becoming the eighth player in NBA history to play a game in 20 different seasons), is a born scorer, coming off a 51-point outing to cap last season. Certainly, Bucks like Robin Lopez or Kyle Korver, aging veterans or not, would have drawn consideration.
But it was Luwawu-Cabarrot’s time to shine. He posted his career high in an unexpected victory over the Bucks, even if Milwaukee sat Giannis Antetokounmpo down the stretch and played mostly reserves.
The performance contributed to an unlikely day for ex-Bulls that also featured Cameron Payne continuing his resurgence with 12 points, three assists and zero turnovers as the Phoenix Suns used a Devin Booker buzzer-beater to edge out the Los Angeles Clippers and improve to 3-0 in the restart.
Yes, that Cameron Payne.
More often than not a punch line during his Bulls stint, Payne at various points stripped Kawhi Leonard in the open court and drew praise from analyst Chauncey Billups on the game broadcast. He's now averaging 10.3 points as a key reserve for a Suns team trying to force its way into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Cam Payne rips Kawhi 😳 pic.twitter.com/KcuQuEcQP7— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) August 4, 2020
“There’s no way he could have known two months ago he’d be in this situation,” Suns coach Monty Williams said during his postgame media availability via Zoom. “He’s a big part of that second unit.”
That’s because Payne was out of the league two months ago, signed as a free agent after stints in China and the G League this season. Williams served as an assistant coach with the Thunder when Payne played there before getting traded to the Bulls. He lauded Payne's perseverance.
And Payne returned the favor.
“He told me to push the pace, bring a lot of energy, be solid defensively and try my best to be consistent. He wants me to keep my turnovers down and just be myself,” Payne said in a Zoom interview. “I really appreciate him. He talks to me a lot. It’s huge coming from him. I just want to say thank you for him.”
Payne also had high praise for the Texas Legends staff, who he said allowed him to “find his mojo” after he left China to play for them in the G League. That overseas stint was another wakeup call in a young career filled with them for a player drafted just one pick behind Booker in the 2015 draft.
“When I had to go (to China), it was kind of like, ‘Man, I’m over here,’” said Payne, who turns 26 on Saturday. “This opportunity means a lot. I kind of feel like this may be a last opportunity, so I have to make the most of it and really show guys that I should be a part of this league. Not being in the NBA is what drove me. I’m trying to do whatever I can, fight my way, claw my way to get back in.”